Explore a side to the city that’s often overlooked in favour of the glitzy hotels. Delve deeper and you will find fascinating museums, old forts, buzzing events and film locations.
Culture and Events
Abu Dhabi is steeped in Arabia’s Islamic traditions. From the 19th-century Al Jahil Fort to the Al Ain Palace Museum, the city is proud of its local heritage. Traditional events such as falconry, camel racing and dhow sailing still take place today. But there’s also a nice mix of international influences to be found here, like the Louvre Museum and Classic Cars Museum.
Events are held year-round, with the biggest taking place during the winter months (if you can call them that) from October to April. UAE National Day from late November to early December is a time of grand extravagance – expect to see huge fireworks, car parades and concerts. There’s also book, art and handicraft festivals to enjoy.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Arguably Abu Dhabi’s most famous event, the Grand Prix takes place across three days each year in November. It is held at the Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island, built around the futuristic Yas Viceroy Hotel. Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld are also set on the island.
In what is often the championship deciding race, only the best drivers are pitted against each other. Add live performers such as The Weeknd and Guns N’ Roses, and you have quite the spectacle. If not visiting during the time of the race, there’s also the option of taking to the circuit yourself.
This desert oasis has proved a Hollywood favourite over recent years. Without realising, you may have seen it in films such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Fast & Furious 7. In the words of JJ Abrams, director of recent Star Wars, “Filming in Abu Dhabi was an incredible thing. Star Wars is a Western and a fairy tale... shooting in Abu Dhabi was just that”.